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This came out in 1988, and I must have first seen it on VHS sometime in the early 90s. By the time I re-watched it on DVD in 2021, I didn't remember much of anything about it. It's considered one of the greatest anime movies of all time, but I'm just not sure how I feel about it. It's certainly interesting, but man, is it weird. And kind of confusing. I definitely appreciate the impact it's had on pop culture since its release, though.
So... it begins with a massive explosion in Tokyo in 1988. This was apparently part of World War III, but I still don't understand how. I don't think a bomb was dropped to cause the explosion. Rather, it had something to do with a boy named Akira who had psychic abilities or whatever. But we don't learn about him till late in the film. Immediately after the explosion, the film flashes forward to 2019, 30 years after the war. The events of the movie take place in Neo-Tokyo, where there is a lot of civil unrest and terrorist activity against the government, though I have no idea what exactly is being protested, nor whether it's justified. The movie focuses on a gang of teenage bikers (who I think are around 14 years old). I guess the leader of the gang is Kaneda, and another member is Tetsuo, but we don't really get to know any of the others very well. One day, Tetsuo gets injured and is taken away by the Army, led by a colonel whose name I never heard. Tetsuo is studied by a doctor whose name I also never heard, and it turns out he has tremendous potential for psychic/telekinetic abilities. There are three younger children with similar abilities who are kept by the Army, though I'm not sure what exactly the Army's interest is in them, nor how happy the children are to be there. We first meet one named Takashi, who was escaping with the help of a member of a resistance group, who ends up being killed, and Takashi recaptured. The other two children don't seem to have any interest in escaping, though. One is a girl named Kiyoko, and the other is a boy named Masaru All three children look elderly and oddly-colored, like greyish green or something.
Anyway... Kaneda wants to find Tetsuo and rescue him. And he meets a girl named Kei, who is a member of the same resistance group that had tried to help Takashi. (He mainly follows her at first because he has the hots for her, or whatever, which I found a bit weird because honestly, I had a hard time distinguishing between her face and Kaneda's.) He gets involved with the resistance group when they infiltrate the facility where Tetsuo and the other children are being held. Meanwhile, Tetsuo's powers grow immensely, and he escapes on his own, and decides to find Akira, for reasons I don't really understand. He's pursued by the military, as well as by Kaneda and Kei. And eventually his powers grow too much for him to control. And... a bunch of other stuff happens that I don't really want to get into. But like I said, it's all weird and confusing.
Yeah, I can't say I understand the point of the movie at all. I'm not even sure if it has a point. Maybe its only purpose in existing is to be weird and cool. Oh, it's definitely cool. But I'm still not sure how much I actually liked it. I kind of thought Kaneda was a jerk, at least some of the time. So there aren't really any characters I could manage to particularly like or root for. I have no idea how I would have wanted the story to end, and I'm not sure I like (or understand) how it does end. Man, I am just so disappointed in myself for not enjoying the movie more than I did. Because I love anime in general, and this is a seminal work. I certainly can't say I disliked it, but I wanted to love it, and I just couldn't. It was probably a lot cooler when it first came out than it is now. But I'm glad to have watched it again.